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Dancing with Ginger
Proving Messy Gourmets CAN Dance

Contributed By D. Max

When you want to project the suave, elegant sophistication of Fred Astaire, this dish makes the ideal statement. It has all the elements, pretty colors, exotic ingredients and a taste that says, "Now this is a cut above an ordinary side dish."

In my community, we have an occasional event that we call "Dining Lotto." People sign up and then get randomly assigned to different homes for a dinner so that everybody is bound to meet somebody new. My luck must have been running hot that week because I managed to come away with this gem of a recipe idea.

Here are the ingredients. There are no amounts listed here for two reasons:

  1. to encourage you to improvise, and
  2. because I don't remember how much of anything I put in when I made it.

Each ingredient goes with a key word:

Bell peppers (color)
Mushrooms (exotic)
Fresh ginger (taste)
Vinegar (sour)
Sugar (sweet

Bell peppers (color) - I said this dish was colorful, and this is where you have to make it happen. Bell peppers come in a variety of hues. Green is the most common, but you can also get yellow, red, orange, and even purple. Bell pepper factoid: most green bells turn red with age. Thus, red bell peppers are simply green bells that have been allowed to ripen on the vine. Consequently, red bells are sweeter than greens and are available later in the season. Choose bell peppers that feel heavy for their size. They will have thick, meaty walls. Avoid any with soft spots or shriveled areas. Bell peppers should be firm and shiny.

Mushrooms (exotic) - You can use ordinary fresh supermarket button mushrooms, but nobody is going to call that exotic. You might still fool people by calling them by their Latin name, Agaricus bisporus, but do yourself a favor and pick out something a bit more interesting. I recommend shitake, oyster or portabello mushrooms, but you probably can't go too wrong grabbing a handful of miscellaneous fungi at your local supermarket. You will enthrall your friends with your sophistication when you tell them they are eating mushrooms with names like Chanterelle, Matsutake, Porcini and Chinese Cloud Ear.

Fresh ginger (taste) - Ginger does for this dish what it did for Fred Astaire -- give it that extra kick that makes it stand up and get noticed.

Vinegar (sour) - It can be plain white vinegar. You could vary it if you want by using cider vinegar or wine vinegar. You can even cut out the vinegar entirely and use lemon juice instead. It's up to you. I use plain white vinegar.

Sugar (sweet) - I use sugar, but you might prefer some other kind of sweetener like honey or maple syrup or even golden syrup. Heck, you could use crushed dates if you want.

In the original Dining Lotto recipe, the fresh ginger is not used directly. Instead, fresh ginger is cut up and added to a bottle of vinegar and allowed to sit. After a few weeks, the vinegar becomes "spiked" with the ginger flavor. This is the simplest way to keep ginger fibers out of the way, but if you don't want to wait a few weeks before trying this recipe then don't bother trying to spike the vinegar, just add the ginger directly. If you have ginger left over afterwards that you don't know what to do with, you can set a bottle of vinegar spiking for next time.

Directions:
Cut up the peppers and mushrooms. Make the pieces slightly larger than bite size because they will shrink as they cook. Slice, grate or juice the ginger. Place peppers, mushrooms, ginger, vinegar and sugar to a pot with a lid. A large deep frying pan works best. Cook over medium flame until the peppers are soft but not mushy. It will cook quicker and more evenly with the pot covered, but bear in mind that the peppers and mushrooms will give off a lot of water as they cook that will dilute the flavor and which will not evaporate if the pot is covered. To compensate, when the peppers and mushrooms are done, remove them from the pot and leave behind the juice. Boil the juice uncovered until the amount of liquid is significantly reduced. Pour the juice back over the vegetables. Can be served hot or cold.

Stains: Vinegar:
Sprinkle the stain with baking soda, dampen with water and allow to stand till bubbling stops. Rinse well in warm water.

Movies for inspiration: Top Hat (1935)
They're Dancing Cheek-To-Cheek

Champagne Gingembre Nouveau
From the vineyards of Hong Kong

Contributed By D. Max

On a trip to Hong Kong, I noticed that among the standard soft drinks can be found a beverage called "Ginger Beer." It is a bolder version of what we call "Ginger Ale" here in the US. Compared to bite of real ginger flavor in ginger beer, our ginger ale tastes mostly like sweetened citric acid flavor. I am disappointed that ginger beer doesn't seem to be available in the US (ed. note: It is available in specialty stores), but even if it were, this recipe is better. What confidence!

Ingredients:

Place the ginger, sugar and about 1 cup water in a pot. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves. If you used ginger juice, then allow to cool as soon as the sugar is dissolved. If you used ginger chunks, then boil for about ten minutes to extract the flavor and then allow to cool. Remove the ginger chunks.

You can store the ginger syrup in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Immediately before serving, pour ginger syrup and apple juice concentrate into a large pitcher. Slowly add seltzer. Mix very gently so the fizz doesn't all escape. Serve and Happy New Year!

Stains:Soft Drinks :
Sponge or soak stain area in cool water then pre-treat with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover) prior to washing with a quality laundry product in the usual way.

Movies for inspiration: The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Marilyn: Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in champagne? It's real crazy!

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